Vitamin D: As “low-sun” months approach, the need is greater

I learned an interesting thing this week, courtesy of Dr. Oz: overweight people and darker-skinned people are at greater risk of Vitamin D deficiency. I’ll get to the complexion piece in a second. Vitamin D is fat soluble, so fat cells absorb the Vitamin D immediately, blocking the rest of your system from getting any of it. The more fat cells you have… well you get the picture. That worried me because I have more than a couple of excess fat cells AND I live in Seattle, where the sun doesn’t shine much for a good 6 months out of the year (other Seattleites would say that was a generous number!)

I think I was more struck by the darker-skinned risk because it didn’t click for me right away. The greatest, fastest-absorbing source of Vitamin D, is from the sun. The darker a person’s skin, the more natural protection they have from the sun’s harmful rays, but they also are less likely to absorb the Vitamin D as quickly as a lighter-skinned person.

Exposure. The general rule is that the average adult should receive 10-15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure at one time – this means no sunscreen or sunblock. Darker-skinned people need as much as one hour of unprotected exposure to reap the benefits. When the sun penetrates our bodies, it converts cholesterol to Vitamin D. Fifteen minutes of exposure can give the average adult the recommended 10,000 International Units (IU) of Vitamin D the body needs weekly (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 400 IU for infants and children through adolescence.)

Other Sources. There are good sources of Vitamin D that can be incorporated into our daily routines. Unfortunately, Vitamin D enriched milk is actually lower on the list because it contains a vegetarian version of the vitamin. Our bodies more readily absorb the animal variety – so all you vegetarians and vegans out there, get thee to the sunshine, stat! That doesn’t mean milk drinkers should stop, you just need to consider adding some of these other sources: one tablespoon of cod liver oil (tasty!) – or you could eat 5 sardines, and not the kind in the can! Other fish liver oils, salmon, mackerel and tuna are also good sources. Daily vitamins are good, but they usually don’t contain enough of your recommended daily allowance so check the dosage and add up to another 1000 IU.

Finally, ask your doctor to check your levels. It can be done through a routine blood test – you want to be above 50, if you are below 30 you need to take immediate corrective action, which usually means supplements. Vitamin D is vital to calcium absorption and to bone health. A deficiency in children can lead to rickets.


Dr. Mehmet Oz on the Importance of Vitamin D

Vitamin D Can Save Lives (ABC’s Good Morning America)

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements

Rickets (Mayo Clinic)

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One Response to “Vitamin D: As “low-sun” months approach, the need is greater”

  1. Kare says:

    You forgot to mention "Two weeks in Hawaii" as a possible antidote. 😀

    Great job! Love your new blog, can't wait to see more!!!

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